What’s the best way wake up our brains and get over that feeling of fatigue and exhaustion? Taking a nap improves brain activation and improves our level of alertness, memory, sense of humor, and creativity. Is there a “perfect” nap? What are the main benefits of taking a nap and how can you get them? Here are 10 ways to optimize your brain resources while you nap.
1. Napping helps fight mental exhaustion
Many people associate physical exhaustion with wanting to sleep, but mental exhaustion plays an important role in our sleep rhythm. Throughout the day, our brains accumulate adenosine, a hormone that slows down brain activity and induces sleep.1 (Journal Ref DOI: 10.1016/S0074-7742(05)63007-3) So having a nap is a perfect opportunity to recharge your energy reserve (glycogen) and bring these levels back down.
2. Napping can help increase brain activity
Taking a 10 or 15 minute nap helps recover your attention level for at least 3-4 hours.2 (Journal Ref PMID: 12220317) However, the way you sleep is very important. Aside from hormones, scientists can see how your brain is functioning through its electrical activity (EEG). For example, attention levels and alertness is about P300 electrical waves. The monotony of daily life can make these “attention waves” decrease.
2. Napping can be a healthy habit
If you’re one of those people who regularly takes naps (2-3 times a week), you’re pretty lucky. Taking naps definitely has benefits for our brains and our bodies. It’s a healthy habit that can help lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, avoid fatigue, increase motivation, and improve mood.3 (Journal Ref PMID: 21359666) 4(Journal Ref DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwu036.)
What to do: The best time to take a nap is mid-day, when your active levels are running low. Set up a quiet room with a bed, and shut out as much light as possible. Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature, and prepare to sleep just 10-15 minutes. This should be enough time to restore your energy levels and prepare you for the rest of the day.
3. Napping helps your brain recover after intense mental activity
Our brain is best able to rest during deep sleep, which happens after sleeping about 25 minutes. It is a period to disconnect, where your neural activity and blood flow to the brain decreases. If you’ve spent hours working or studying, your brain needs extra time to recover.
4. Napping helps strengthen your memory
How can napping help you remember what you’ve just studied? Naps that activate deep sleep or help you integrate and remember the information that you’ve studied, but the length of the nap does make a difference.
5. Napping can help reduce stress
That’s right. A study has shown that napping seems to be a perfect “antidote” to counteract stress that you’ve accumulated throughout the day. During the first 15 minutes of sleep, the neurons in the prefrontal cortex (for executive functions), start to “relax”.
6. Trust your brain while you sleep: your brain knows how to prioritize
Imagine that there are two types of news: one that is emotional (“your house just burned down”) and another academic one (“memorize this text after a nap”). While you sleep, your brain will “record” the information about the exam. Why? Because it’s able to prioritize what’s most important to your near future.
7. Napping can help make you happier
We’ve seen how naps can make you less tired and improve memory and performance, but what happens to our emotions? Taking naps can increase the number of positive emotions that you feel, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll be motivated by your sense of happiness.
8. Napping can give your brain function a quick boost
Even just a short 6-7 minute nap after reading a text can help improve your brain function.